Data Centers, Utilities Face Similar Demand Problems

Facebook data centerData center operators seeking to manage peak demand are increasingly facing the same operational, and thus capital spending, challenges, as utilities, according to an article on Forbes.com.

Both data centers and utilities need to build capacity to meet consumer demand at peak, not average, levels. This means that attempts to maximize the use of a capital asset, be that a data center or, for example, a coal plant, is made harder by the whims of irregular consumer demand, which inherently creates peaks and valleys.

Article author Mark Mills, says it is unlikely that data center operators will introduce airline-style pricing, which is designed to encourage flying at less popular times. As a result, the solution lies mainly in hardware and software options aimed at accommodating, not suppressing peak data demand, and peak energy demand, according to Forbes.

Average data demand is expected to double in the next five years, but peak data demand, is expected to quadruple by that time, the article says. Without strides in technology efficiency, the energy required to supply the data will increase too.

According to an analysis by McKinsey & Company released in September 2012, data centers use on average just 6 to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers. The rest keeps servers idling and is there in case of a surge in activity. Essentially overbuilding to create a sense of security.

But some data centers are committed to greater efficiency. A FaceBook Data Center in Princeville, Ore., (pictured) that was completed in 2011 uses 38 percent less energy to do the same work as Facebook’s existing facilities, while costing 24 percent less.

In March, data center products comapanies SynapSense Corporation and Equinix used SynapSense’s Environmental Monitoring and Active Control product to find more 8 million kWh of savings, equivalent to $1.3 million annually, for the Equinix Singapore data center.

The data center cooling efficiency study was the result of more than six months of work by SynapSense and Equinix after the companies were chosen in 2012 as winners of the Green Data Center Innovation Challenge by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

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